From the Morning Memo:

Deputy Senate Majority Leader John DeFrancisco hasn’t had the greatest week, watching support for his bid to challenge Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo on the Republican line slowly erode as GOP leaders line up behind on a potential rival who hasn’t even announced his candidacy yet, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro.

It all started last week, when Molinaro, who announced back in January that he would not be mounting a statewide run against Cuomo this fall, won a straw poll of GOP leaders, who aren’t sold on DeFrancisco, and have been casting about for an alternative.

Even after his victory, Molinaro declined to saw whether he would indeed take his fellow Republicans’ up on their effort to draft him into the race, though he said through a spokesman that he was “deeply grateful and humbled” by their show of support.

If the subsequent barrage of press releases from various GOP county chairs announcing their endorsement of Molinaro – including a few who had already declared their fealty to DeFrancisco – is any indication, however, it will only be a matter of time before the former assemblyman formally jumps into the fray.

DeFrancisco has adopted an unconcerned attitude about Molinaro, insisting he plans to remain in the race until the party gathers at its convention in May to formally select a slate of candidates to run in the fall elections, though he has also said he will not fight for the nomination in a primary.

But the Syracuse Republican couldn’t help but take a few digs at Molinaro during a CapTon interview last night, reminding his fellow Republicans that he – not the county executive – has been making the rounds of various county committee gatherings for months now, answering questions on all manner of topics.

“The vote is in May, the end of May,” the senator said. “Over the last four months, I’ve been all over the state, as have others. I have been to regional meetings where candidates are asked questions by committee people. We’ve had debates in buffalo and other places, and, you know, Marc Molinaro hasn’t really done any of that.”

“And I think you have to vet somebody before you go forward and anoint that person as the candidate. So I’m available. I’ve always been available. And whatever happens happens, but I’m going to stay in it.”

DeFrancisco later added: “Many people don’t even know what his positions are on a lot of issues because he didn’t appear before a lot of these organizations. So I don’t know.” He also noted that Molinaro has “already gotten out once, so you just never know.”

To be fair, of course, Molinaro was never technically “in,” but did confirm he was mulling a potential run. In January he said it was “not the right time” for him to run for governor, which perhaps had something to do with the fact that this is expected to be a bad year for Republicans, writ large, thanks to the unpopularity of the man who won’t be on the ticket, but is the de facto head of the national GOP, President Donald Trump.

Even though he hasn’t yet announced his candidacy, the Democrats are already trying to link Molinaro to Trump, which is the same treatment they’ve been giving to DeFrancisco since he announced his campaign.

(In fact, the director of the state Democratic Party, Geoff Berman, has used the same line for both Republicans, referring to each of them separately as a Trump “mini-me,” indicating it might be high time for a new verbal barb).

Last month, Molinaro said he was heeding the requests of “many people” to reconsider his decision not to challenge Cuomo, saying: “(F)rankly, I owe it to myself and to them. There are only so many times you’re given an opportunity to have your voice heard.”